Leeds’ promotion dream may have ended in heartache once again, but Marcelo Bielsa’s impact on the club and the city will leave a lasting legacy.
TEAMtalk.com editor James Marshment looks at his impact – and why keeping him at the helm has to be the No 1 focus going forwards.
As the dust settles on the huge disappointment of missing out on promotion, there’ll be plenty of reason to look back on our year under Marcelo Bielsa with plenty of pragmatism and a large dose of appreciation. What Biesa has done with this set of players – who looked distinctly average in finishing 13th last season – is nothing short of miraculous.
It’s clear the players have bought into his philosophy and relished playing under one of the game’s most thoughtful thinkers. And for the reason, I’d rate this season as a success.
However, that comes with a huge portion of regret given we spent 182 days leading the table – more than any other side – and you can’t escape the fact that Leeds have blown their best chance of promotion in years.
Granted, there are plenty of mitigating circumstances to what was ultimately Leeds’ failure to achieve their objective of promotion back to the Premier League: injuries to key players at key stages have had serious implications, the loss of Samuel Saiz (loaned to Getafe at the player’s request) and the transfer deadline day failure to replace him with Daniel James was also extremely costly. The Spygate scandal also did us few favours and created unwanted publicity surrounding Bielsa and his methods.
Bielsa may have a somewhat divisive figure during his time in the game in France with Marseille and Lille, but ask anyone at Leeds about the man and you’ll get a similar response: he’s a man of huge integrity, one of the most humble in the game and a master tactician. He more than anyone alone deserved that fairytale promotion this season.
But one thing Bielsa has done is unite the fans and unite the club; so long struggling to shake off it’s sleeping giant tag. The football we have played, at times, this season has been breathtaking and certainly befitting of a higher level. Bielsa has given Leeds its belief back and keeping him at the helm – and backing him with a bit of transfer cash – has to be the club’s No 1 focus from here on in.
Thank you Bielsa – this season has been a joy and the football played, at times, an absolute delight to watch. Beyond gutted the lads couldn’t achieve the promotion you truly deserved. A humble, dignified and supreme coach. It’s been a pleasure
— James Marshment (@marshyleeds) May 15, 2019
It makes you wonder what can be achieved should he be given the resources to bring in some experience and quality at this level. After all, the football played by Leeds this season, what player wouldn’t want the chance to play under him…?
Leeds has long had a tradition of producing some quality homegrown players and Bielsa’s decision to trust in these youngsters has been particularly pleasing. Local boys becoming local heroes. Leeds has a long history of this and Bielsa has tapped into those youngsters more than any other coach at the club in a decade.
Each and every one of these players will now have the best grounding to enjoy long and successful careers in the game. And with the club having won the PDL U23s league this season, there’s genuine belief that plenty more off the production line will emerge next season.
In short, Bielsa’s year at Leeds will be remembered for years to come; his impact on the club and the city close to delivering the ultimate goal. Hope burns bright he’ll be convinced to stay and complete the job; should he leave, he’ll go with the hearts of an entire city, but with an almighty hollowness of what could – and should – have been.